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Stock market today: Wall Street rises following updates on consumer confidence, job openings

FILE - Flags adorn the facade of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Wall Street is retreating a bit more as a five-week rally loses momentum. The S&P 500 was 0.4% lower in early trading Wednesday, June 21, 2023.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK — Technology companies led a broad stock market rally Tuesday after two economic reports raised hopes on Wall Street that the economy is cooling enough for the Federal Reserve to pause hiking interest rates.

The S&P 500 rose 1.5%, its third straight gain and biggest since early June. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 292 points and the Nasdaq composite finished 1.7% higher.

Big tech stocks powered much of the rally. Apple rose 2.2% and Nvidia climbed 4.2%. Advancers outnumbered decliners by 4 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Bond yields fell broadly. Markets in Europe and Asia also rose.

The latest gains came as investors reviewed reports on consumer confidence and the labor market. The Conference Board, a business research group, reported that consumer confidence tumbled in August, surprising economists that were expecting levels to hold steady around the strong July reading. Consumer confidence and spending have been closely-watched amid persistent pressure from inflation.

Also on Tuesday, the government reported that job openings fell to the lowest level since March 2021, a larger drop than economists expected. The report also showed that the number of Americans quitting their jobs fell sharply for the second straight month, clear signs that the labor market is cooling in a way that could reduce inflation.

A strong job market has been credited as a bulwark against a recession, but it has made the Fed's mission to tame inflation more difficult. The latest data will likely be welcomed by the central bank, because fewer job openings and less quitting reduces pressure on employers to raise pay to find and keep workers.

“Markets reacted to the release of the consumer confidence and job opening reports by rallying, with both bonds and stocks up on the news as odds for a Federal Reserve rate hike at their next meeting in September fell,” said Sam Millette, fixed income strategist for Commonwealth Financial Network.

Wall Street is betting that the Fed will hold rates steady again at its September meeting, according to CME’s FedWatch tool. The data on job openings and consumer confidence may have helped persuade the outlook for what the Fed will do at its November policy meeting. The bets on the side of no change in rates by the Fed rose from about 38% on Monday to just under 50% Tuesday.

The Fed has been raising its main interest rate for more than a year to its highest level since 2001, in an effort to bring inflation back down to its 2% goal. The central bank held rates steady at its last meeting and Wall Street is betting that it will do the same at its September meeting.

“My gut tells me the Fed is close to being done with rate hikes, but we need to see more traction with some of these numbers we saw today,” said Jason Betz, private wealth advisor at Ameriprise Financial.

Investors and economists have several more big economic reports on tap this week. The government will provide another update on the nation’s gross domestic product on Wednesday. It will also release its monthly employment report for August on Friday.

A key inflation update is expected on Thursday when the government reports personal consumption and expenditures, or PCE, report for July. It is the Fed’s preferred measure for inflation and has been cooling for months. It eased to 3% in June and was as a high as 7% a year ago.

If the PCE report indicates inflation is coming down at a faster pace, and if the jobs report shows wage growth and hiring have weakened, that could bring down the likelihood of a rate hike in November even further, said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial.

The Fed has said it is prepared to continue raising interest rates to cool inflation, but will base its decisions on the latest economic data.

The threat of rates staying higher for longer led to a pullback for stocks this month following what had been a banner year. The S&P 500 is down 2% this month after soaring 19.5% through July. It remains about 17% higher for the year, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq is up more than 33%.

All told, the S&P 500 rose 64.32 points to 4,497.63, the Dow added 292.69 points, or 0.8%, to 34,852.67, and the Nasdaq gained 238.63 points to 13,943.76.

Bond yields fell. The yield on the 2-year Treasury, which tracks expectations for the Fed, fell significantly following the latest consumer confidence and job openings reports. It slipped to 4.90% from about 5.03% just before the report was out. It stood at 5.05% late Monday.

The 10-year Treasury yield also fell, dropping to 4.12% from 4.21% late Monday. The yield, which influences interest rates on mortgages and other loans, climbed close to its highest level since 2007 last week.

Wall Street also reviewed the latest earnings from several big retailers Tuesday.

Best Buy rose 3.9% after the consumer electronics retailer beat Wall Street forecasts, even as second-quarter profit and sales declined from a year ago. Discount retailer Big Lots surged 26.8% after reporting strong financial results.


Yuri Kageyama and Matt Ott contributed to this report.

Damian J. Troise And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press

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